Let’s Put the Trumped, Bannon-ized, Weinstein-ized Year Behind Us

As soon as I as I hit the send button I shall garb myself in protective warm clothing, put on my garden boots, grab my trusted pitch fork and shovel, head to the new garden plot, distribute and even out the large compost pile, find an unfrozen spot in the rich sub leafy soil layer protected by the percolating leaves, dig the upper crust, and bury it.

This is my way of getting rid of the old and signaling to me that today is a new day in the 365 days’ cycle we call a calendar year.

I’ve been performing this New Year’s Day ritual for well over 40 years, a ritual that heralds new beginnings and an affirmation that the New Year is bound to be a better one.

And how eager I am to bury 2017 into the past, to never to see the damage it has done to the global community.

The year 2017 will go down in history as a nightmare. It started out with Saudi Arabia’s beheading well over 60 people, a sadistically primitive ritual performed by one of America’s many tyrannical “reliable U.S. allies” who blemish the map of the Near East, all the way from the Mediterranean (Tel Aviv) to the Persian Gulf (Riyadh).

For the U.S., January 2017 commenced as a Banon-ized power grab in which America and the entire world were trumped by a grabbing Orange Menace that’s given a flamboyantly dishonest real estate-casino owner proprietary power that confines the entire world to a gambling joint. And all the hoopla about the size of the inaugural ritual (not to mention the puerile hands discussion/s) was to set the tone for a dark epoch in which 3:00 a.m. hypochondriac and outlandish tweeting signaled a new manner of governing, an epoch blighted by fake news, impulsive, egotistical, patronizing, childish, mean-spirited, and discomfiting behavior not witnessed even on elementary school playgrounds.

The year 2017 will also be remembered for: climate change denial; for three major apocalyptic-sized hurricanes; record-setting devastating forest fires; the institutionalized exploitation and degradation of the environment; mass shootings and a gun lobby that quashes a meaningful discussion on guns; genocide and human rights violations across the world, including  ethnic cleansing in South East Asia, the Near East, and Africa; the loss of civil liberties and more intrusive spying under the guise of national security; the assembling and flocking of alligators, crocodiles, vultures, and predators into the man-made tangy D.C. swamp; the moral abdication of spiritual leaders and their support and acquiescence in supporting a sex predator and a pedophile to represent “We, the People” in the White House and the hallowed halls of Congress.

Anti-immigrant fervor is fanned to divert attention from serious crises; the dropping of Jennings-ized “beautiful cruise missiles” and the Zakaria-ized lauding of newly-demonstrated leadership of The Father of All Bombs as a sign of presidential resolve expose the deep fault lines, the militarization  and tribalism that have taken over this nation. Lucrative arms deals by the U.S., Canada, France, and England to Near Eastern and Israeli tyrants awash with petro dollars and AIPAC power have resulted in the killing, maiming, dispossession, and ruination of millions of lives.

Out of the abyss of centuries of predatory assaults and despicable violation of the millions of exploited women across the world, that disease better known as “the Grabbing Affliction,” a dastardly disease  afflicting those in a miscellany of powerful positions, was finally isolated and identified; and a new epoch of accountability, albeit too late, emerged to help restore dignity to American women, a dignity denied the millions of their counterparts languishing across the globe, especially in the Global South, where the floodgates to liberation have for far too long ground to a standstill.

And the stock market, a measure of corporate power and greed, will likely hit new records as the new tax laws are enacted. And a new world order in which the middle class will struggle to feed, house, and attain decent health care at affordable prices – while juggling two to three jobs (sans benefits) in decaying cities – will become the norm.

While all the aforementioned Cassandra observations are the somber and monstrous side of Janus’s grieving recto visage, the Roman God’s (after whom January is named) other verso visage is a jovial, bouncy, and delightful one.


In spite of the ominously telltale signs that similar events will unfold in 2018, I take solace in knowing that in 2018 there will be millions of acts of kindness that affirm that even though evil will exist (much as it did when the mythical Cain raised his covetously jealous club), the kindness of millions across the globe (even though largely neglected by the media) will affirm that human decency will triumph.

In 2018, much like 2017, parents will continue to struggle to deny themselves so as to provide better opportunities for their children. People of faith will continue to follow the dictates of their faith-based teachings to give of their time and resources to help their neighbors down the street, across town, and across the globe. Health care providers (the janitorial staff, including orderlies, nurses, technicians, lab assistants, and physicians) will continue to administer health care, alleviate the pain, and heal those in need. Hospice providers will continue to accord those assigned to their care the dignity and propriety peace they so deserve. Parents will continue to spend countless hours by their sick children’s bedsides encouraging, cuddling, and praying for better outcomes. Children and siblings will continue to take care of the elderly in a variety of ways. Volunteers will continue to deliver meals on wheels to folks dependent on that single well-balanced and nutritious meal wolfed down with gratitude. Several of my friends perform this magnanimous deed five days a week, 365 days a year.

Farmers, primarily the small family farms ones, will continue to donate a portion of their harvests to charitable organizations. Doctors Without Borders will continue to travel to war-torn areas – frequently paying a heavy price to help the wounded because of their deep belief that every life, no matter what the color of the skin, nationality or faith- is precious. The kindness of strangers to immigrants, victims of mostly Western war mongering, will continue to thrive. Even though underpaid and largely unappreciated, teachers will continue to serve their communities; and special education teachers will continue to help their students overcome the many challenges they face. Organ donors will continue to help strangers by providing much-need healthy tissues.

The Mary Evangelistas, Anna Baltzers, Barbara Lubins, Amira Hasses, Gifeon Levys, and Rabbi Lerners and a host of decent human rights advocates will continue to represent the very best in their trailblazing advocacy for human rights.

And finally, the valiant and fearless editors and reporters (such as CounterPunch),  those truly gallant  men and women who are neither constrained by corporate restraints nor political ideology, will continue to expose and shout out the truth by holding a communal mirror, a kind of pricking of the national and international consciences to keep us informed and free.

In his poem Apology for Hope, acclaimed poet and dear friend Jack Butler penned a masterpiece in which he narrates his building a house some 42 years ago in a rural community in close proximity to Hollywood, Arkansas.  The great storyteller in rhyme tells the reader how out of the old, he built a new structure he would call home. And as I head to my garden to continue this New Year’s Day fetish, I am reminded of Jack’s lines: “When my shovel, heel-driven, made moons of severance/across them [roots], and I tore them like dirty rope/out of the black, odorous ground.” Jack’s poem is an apropos metaphor for burying the ashes of 2017 and relegating them to the past to make way for a new and better 2018.

Happy New Year to all CounterPunchers. 

Apology For Hope

Mostly the imposition of geometries,
this building Home.  With a shovel I imagine
a shoveled rectangle for under-floor—
bite by bite, the spade reveling
in divot on green-capped black divot
laid shingle-wise on the topsoil mound—
why waste what beans can use?

And I have caused to rise joists
in the jessamine air—repeats of rectangle,
simplest relation for a novice:  gray rough-cuts
from a split barn, shaggy with age,
resume in one harmonium (sort of)
with the clean slender wands of soft pine
they sell for two-bys downtown.

Holes and tunnels in the salvage lumber—
all homes crawl with Home,
bumblebee and termite chew holes in Euclid,
even thought’s bones host thought: the axes,
axed open, brew with disorder, virus.

Where’s hope if what takes us has none?

Throttled in rose-thorn and bayberry, the bootlegger’s
crumbling chimney, ablaze with bees.
I won’t use it or tear it down.  You almost,
John said, seeing how near I built,
have a fireplace.
A house
burned here once, that sudden bloom
drowned under forty springs of change.
Their pond I go down to drink, ripe now
with algae, bullfrogs, small bream spanking
green runs open in pollen,
emerald holes in silks of rainbow.  The government,
in the thirties, paid them to build it.

I spade up soot-black, melted jars.

Here is a hill where buzzards sail close
in soft blue over froth of plum bloom.
In its flank I frame slowly our great hope,
the oldest, most banal, deepest, most sweet.
It is what those rust-skinned roots were dreaming of
when my shovel, heel-driven, made moons of severance
across them, and I tore them like dirty rope
out of the black, odorous ground.

Raouf J. Halaby is a Professor Emeritus of English and Art. He is a writer, photographer, sculptor, an avid gardener, and a peace activist. halabys7181@outlook.com